Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unusual Edible Shrubs & Trees

Here are three of my favorite "unusual" edible shrubs and trees. All are available from

First is the mulberry (Morus alba). Growing up in Indiana we played in thickets of mulberry, emerging with stained hands and full bellies! Illinois Everbearing is a self-fertile mulberry hardy to minus 30 degrees that performs great in the Puget Sound region. It will get 35' tall, but can be kept much smaller with pruning. There are also weeping and contorted varieties that fruit. The berries are 1 1/2" long, turn black when ripe, ripen over a long period (July-Sept) and are delicious. And you will have to learn how to share with the birds, as they adore the fruit as well. (Notice the robin in the first photo!)

Next is the Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides -- Say that 5 times fast!) This Russian native is a large shrub that gets 10'-12' tall and tolerates poor soil conditions. However it does need good drainage. Both ornamental (narrow, silver leaves) and edible (abundant yellow-orange fruit) this shrub makes a great feature plant or hedge. Requires a male and a female plant for pollination. In Europe and Asia the sour, flavorful fruit is prized as an anti-oxidant and a great source of vitamins C and E. Most often used in juices, jams, sauces and liqueurs.

And last, but not least, is the the aronia (Aronia melanocarpa). Rumored to be one of the most productive berries in the world (along with Sea Buckthorn and Goumi), this 5'-6' self-fertileshrub produces clusters of very tart purple-black berries. The tartness is a result of the high vitamin, mineral and anti-oxidant content of the fruit. Use in juices, smoothies, jams, syrups and wine.

Friday, March 13, 2009

City Chickens

These two photos are of a chicken coop in north Seattle. The coop is situated in the vegetable garden under the shade of a maple and a pear tree. The chickens forage in the garden during the day when the homeowners are around. As you can see, there is a waterproof hutch for food, sleep, egg production and most importantly, safety of the hens.  While the plastic bins on the top may seem messy, they serve a function to help waterproof the chicken run during the wet winter. And the bins initially served as home to the new chicks before they moved into the coop.  

Chickens are a wonderful addition to a food garden. Not only do they help with weed and pest control, they provide manure for compost. They will also eat most of your garden green waste and kitchen vegetable scraps. And let us not overlook the most important gift chickens give, the mighty egg. Most breeds will lay at least one egg a day in the summer, less in the winter. So with three chickens, you will have almost 2 dozen eggs a week! Talk about food security. Backyard protein.

If you are interested in adding chickens to your landscape, be sure to do your homework. Chickens are not low-maintenance--egg harvesting, feeding watering and cleaning out the coop is an ongoing cycle.  For more info visit Seattle Tilth's website: They offer workshops and access to resources for chickens, as well as all aspects of backyard food gardening.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Welcome--Winter Orchard, Hazelnut Hedge, Evergreen Huckleberry

Welcome to Edible Landscape Seattle! My intention with this blog is to share my enthusiasm and knowledge for growing fruits, berries and vegetables in your backyard--edible landscaping. My plan is to post photos of the many edible landscapes that I come across in Seattle and King County. I will also include simple how-to tips to help you get started.

To get the ball rolling, here are three photos of a winter orchard in Kirkland, WA. The first photo shows a front yard orchard after pruning with over eight fruit and nut trees in the photo, including almond, hazelnut, cherry, plum and apricot. Winter is a great time for pruning your fruit trees. They are dormant and it is easier to see the shape of the tree with the leaves off. With proper pruning, you can maximize production and keep the height of the tree down to make harvesting easier. Pruning also increases air flow through the tree that helps keep mold and moisture out. For a great guide to pruning visit and search for the  "Easy Steps To Fruit Tree Pruning" DVD.

The second photo shows a detail of a hazelnut hedgerow along the road. There is no sidewalk or setback, so instead of a fence to block the road, a hedgerow of hazelnut and service berry were planted on three foot centers. Blueberry, evergreen huckleberry, josta berry, and guomi were planted as understory shrubs with strawberry and thyme groundcover. I recommend buying your edible plants at

The last photo is a close-up of an evergreen huckleberry over 6' tall. Joe is testament to its height and tasty berry, which ripens in summer. Evergreen huckleberry (Vacinnium ovatum) is one of my personal favorite plants. This native plant tolerates full sun AND full shade (grows taller in  shade) and is drought tolerant once established. By far the best feature is the abundance of berries, eaten fresh or put in pies or jams.